The following material is the first lesson from a series on doctrinal Bible studies for the layman by Miss Mary Walsh. The author's unique field is the training of laymen for Bible work in the Columbia Union. Miss Walsh is conversant with Catholic thinking and those problems that clarify the place of the inspired books of the Bible and also the Apocrypha. We will publish in THE MINISTRY Lessons I, II, and III of this series, because this material is of special interest to Bible instructors in their work for Catholics. (The entire series of thirty-four lessons may be obtained from your Book and Bible House.) Bearing in mind that Miss Walsh planned these lessons for the laymen, Bible instructors who are called on to conduct lay-training classes will here find helpful facts and argument for the teaching of the Inspired Word,—L. C. K.
INTRODUCTION.—It was not God's original plan to give His Word in written form to man. Angels were to be man's teachers. God and angels visited Adam and Eve. Sin entered, and the line of open communication was broken. Man could no longer enjoy that close communion with his Maker. The glory of God is a consuming fire to the sinner. Therefore, the Lord devised a plan whereby He might keep in contact with the human family.
I. Mediums Used by God to Convey His Word
I. AUDIBLE VOICE.
Gen. 3:8-15. Lord spoke and made known plan of salvation within hearing of Adam and Eve.
Num. 12:7, 8. Moses, a prophet, had rare privilege of hearing voice of Lord.
2. FACE TO FACE.
Ex. 33:11. Note close intimacy between Moses and his Lord.
Deut, 34:10. Lord knew Moses face to face.
Zech. I :9. Angel talked with prophet Zechariah.
Luke s J1, 18, 19. Gabriel from presence of God spoke to Zacharias.
Dan. 7:2. Daniel saw in vision history of world.
Rev. 1 :19. John saw past, present, and future.
5. HANDWRITING OF GOD.
Deut. 9:9, Do.; 10:2, 4; Ex. 32:16. Law given and written by God Himself. This is only part of Bible God wrote.
NUM. 12:6. Prophets to have dreams.
Gen. 37:5, 9. A divine dream given to Jo-seph, making known future.
7. HOLY SPIRIT.
2 Peter I :21. Holy Spirit spoke through holy men or prophets.
2 Sam. 23 :1, 2. Holy Spirit spoke through David.
John 17:14. Christ, while on earth, gave His Father's Word.
Heb. I :I, 2. Spoken by His Son. Matt. 17:5. We are to hear Him.
II. The World Without a Bible
Have we always had a Bible? No I Word given orally through prophets for approximately 2,500 years. Those who antedated the written Word were blessed with longevity and clear, retentive minds. Adam lived 930 years. He had privilege of reiterating story of fall and whole plan of redemption to eight generations.
Gen. 5 :3-30. By studying genealogy of Genesis 5, we find Adam lived 56 years after Lamech was born. Father of Noah, no doubt, heard gospel from lips of Adam
Gen. II :10-26. The genealogy of Shem, one who went through Flood, reveals he lived many years after birth of Abraham. Messages of inspiration passed down by word of mouth to days of Moses.
III. The Written Word
I. REASONS WHY WORD WAS GIVEN IN WRITTEN FORM.
a. Mental capacity of man lessened through ravages of sin.
b. Life line shortened by disease.
c. Liability of error creeping in because of impaired faculties.
d. Apostasy on increase. Truth of God must be given with accuracy. Hence, the written Word.
2. WRITING STAMPS WORD WITH AUTHENTICITY.
Matt. 24:35. Validity of God's promises assured by written Word. His name is appended to every promise.
3. MOSES THE FIRST WRITING PROPHET.
Luke 24:27. "Beginning at Moses." Our Lord thus acknowledged that written Word had its origin with Moses.
Ex. 24;4. No record of inspired writings prior to what Moses wrote. Beginning with Moses and covering a period of approximately 1,500 years, God used the prophets, thus compiling a volume of inspired writings that has stood test of ages.
IV. The Canon of Our Bible
I. CANON. "A law or rule in general. The general books of the Holy Scriptures, called the sacred canon or general rule of moral and religious duty, given by inspiration."—WESTER.
Phil 3 :16. Bible, given by God, is man's rule of spiritual life and practice.
2. CANON OF OLD TESTAMENT.
a. Old Testament contains 39 books covering a writing period from approximately 1500 B.C. to 400 B.C. Moses the first writer, Malachi the last.
b. Present canon was fixed or closed at time of Ezra, following Babylonish captivity, when 39 books were compiled in one volume.
3. DIVISIONS OF OLD TESTAMENT.
Luke 24:44. Christ recognized these divisions: Law, Prophets, Psalms.
4. THE APOCRYPHA.
a. Seven books now known as Apocrypha are: (I) Tobias. (2) Judith. (3) Wisdom of Solomon. (4) Ecclesiasticus. (5) Baruch. (6) Esdras. (7) Maccabees. Also additions to Esther and Daniel.
b. Apocrypha rejected by Jerome.
From time when Old Testament was finally closed, Apocrypha books disappeared in Hebrew form. Have come down to us only in Greek. Catholic Church has Apocrypha books in Douay Version, although Saint Jerome rejected them when he translated Bible into Latin Vulgate because they were not in Hebrew language, and because they were not in the current Hebrew Bible. However, he very reluctantly consented to make a translation of two books—Judith and Tobias. He left untouched the remaining five—Esdras, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and Maccabees ; as well as the additions to Esther and Daniel.
c. Rejected by Palestinian Jews.
Apocryphal books rejected by Palestinian Jews and early church as inferior in content and of spurious authorship. However, carried from Septuagint over into Old Latin Version, Latin Vulgate, and Douay Version.
d. Christ and Apocrypha.
Noteworthy that none of prophets quoted from Apocrypha, and Christ ignored these books. Proves they are not part of Inspired Volume. However, they were included in Septuagint—a Greek translation of Old Testament in general use at time of Christ.
e. Apocrypha not directly quoted in New Testament.
Note this statement taken from works of Frederic Kenyan: "It is noticeable that while there are many quotations in the New Testament from each group of books in the Old, there is not a single direct quotation from the Apocrypha. A similar distinction is found in Josephus and Philo. It was probably only in Alexandria that the Apocrypha books had equal currency with the Canonical."—FREDERIC KENYAN in Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, p. 28, footnote.
5. CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
a. Many years went by before any book of New Testament was written. Apostles used Old Testament scriptures to get converts for Christian church. Paul wrote first installment of New Testament. First Thessalonians written in A.D. 52. His second epistle to Thessalonians written in A.D. 53. Forty-four years later John penned closing chapters of Revelation. Sixty-two years went by before New Testament completed.
b. Jesus left nothing written with His own hand. He committed His oral teachings to the apostles, who proclaimed them far and wide. Later, apostles put into writing the words of our Lord, which were accepted. However, several centuries passed before 27 books now comprising New Testament were canonically accepted. Divinely inspired 27 books were compiled into one volume in A.D. 397. God preserved these until brought together as one.
c. Divisions of New Testament : gospels (4), prophecy (I), history (1), epistles (21).
V. Sixty-six Bible Books
c. Verses introduced. In 1551 Sir Robert Stephanus divided chapters of New Testament into verses. In 1560 Geneva or Breeches Bible divided Old Testament into verses.
3. EARLY VERSIONS OF THE 'BIBLE.
a. First whole English Bible in 1380. John Wycliffe took 22 years to translate. Made from Latin Vulgate.
b. First printed English Testament in 1534. William Tyndale, great Protestant Reformer, made a translation from Erasmus' Greek New Testament.
c. Douay Bible. Translated from Latin Vulgate in 1609. Includes Apocryphal books and contains some errors which original Hebrew and Greek cannot support.
d. Authorized Version in 1611. Marginal reference adopted for first time.
VI. Necessity of Studying Scriptures
2 Tim. 3:16, 17. Old Testament contains all the light given on true doctrine that is necessary for salvation.
Luke 24:27. Christ taught from Old Testament Scriptures ; so did the apostles.
John 5:39. By searching Sacred Book we find Christ, and when we have found Him He is "Pearl of great price."
2 Tim. 3 :15. Bible, rightly understood, will make us "wise unto salvation."